FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — “#BlackatUark is having a sorority on campus email black orgs on campus to cast them as SLAVES in a play.”
A quick Twitter search of the #BlackatUark hashtag revealed this story, short enough to fit in the platform’s character limit and powerful enough to reveal the racism at Arkansas’ flagship university.
This wasn’t the only one. Others accused professors of using the n-word, Greek Life organizations of racist actions and university administrators of silence amid glaring injustice.
#BlackatUark is having a sorority on campus email black orgs on campus to cast them as SLAVES in a play.— 🦋 (@iamdcole) June 15, 2020
Being #BlackatUark is having PIKE throw a fried chicken, watermelon, and 40 oz themed party to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day.— ari 🌙 (@notordinari) June 16, 2020
#blackatuark is watching frats bring black artists to campus for row but having no respect for the black people whatsoever. Y’all love the culture that we bring but only enough to benefit and enjoy if for yourself— I hate it here (@trieditbih) June 15, 2020
The hashtag’s gone viral since it first popped up this week, and hundreds of current and former black students spoke out on Twitter. This comes as the country undergoes its most-significant civil rights movement since the 1960s following the death of black Minnesota man George Floyd while in police custody. Amid protests and demonstrations calling for overwhelming structural overhauls in law enforcement, businesses and local government, the #BlackatUark hashtag showed higher education isn’t immune.
“All the ongoing hashtags have been topics that have been widely in discussion for some time,” said Dekarius Dawson, a former UA student.
Dawson, a black man, said he experienced racism soon after moving to Fayetteville when he first enrolled.
“I had a patron ask me what tribe I was from, referring to Africa,” Dawson said. “I was like, ‘I’m actually from Memphis, Tennessee. That’s in America.'”
Dawson said he wasn’t surprised to see the plethora of stories from other black students.
#BlackatUARK is living in Pomfret hall and it being called the ghetto because that is where majority of the black students live— TaylorMade (@Xclutay1) June 15, 2020
#BlackAtUARK Having you teacher tell you to explain to your all white class that racism is real and seen on a daily basis. Only for a white male classmate to say “yea i think black people are over reacting, it’s not that bad to have stop & frisk, if you think someone is guilty”— Kissi 😘🇹🇹 (@kiss_kissi) June 15, 2020
#BlackatUark the higher ups wondering why African American retention rates are dropping but won’t put in any effort to provide a safe space for black people to feel welcome & recognized.— kandy🍭 (@kandyflan) June 15, 2020
“Yes, somebody puts out a statement [when racism is reported], but then nothing else really happens after that,” Dawson said. “So, no surprise.”
The UofA responded to the trending hashtag in a statement Tuesday:
“Chancellor [Joseph] Steinmetz and others on campus have been following #BlackatUARK and the experiences shared in that thread are powerful and painful testaments to the vital work we as a university and community need to do to make our campus more equitable and inclusive. Racist activities have no place on the University of Arkansas campus or anywhere in our world. Chancellor Steinmetz is meeting weekly with black students to listen, learn and develop pathways to make our campus more inclusive. We are working to grow that group to make sure all voices are heard as we work together to build a better campus and world.”
Steinmetz tweeted a statement of his own, calling the stories, “powerful, painful testaments” to the corrective work that needs to be done.
I have been reading #blackatUARK and I hear you. Your experiences as black students are powerful, painful testaments to the vital work we need to do to make our campus equitable and inclusive. These hard, real discussions are an important step to affect change together. #UARK— Joseph Steinmetz (@JoeSteinmetz) June 16, 2020
“These hard, real discussions are an important step to affect change together,” Steinmetz said.
The university’s Black Student Caucus released a list of demands on its Instagram page, imploring the UofA’s administration to make tangible changes to its daily operation:
- Statement from the chancellor
- Mandatory cultural competence training
- Uncompromising punishment
- Funds for black student life center and staff
- Funding for black scholarships
- Implementation of hate speech policy
- Consequences for individuals under investigation
- More people of color at Pat Walker
- Removal of Fulbright statue and renaming of dining hall
- Creation of committee to address demands
- Diverse judicial board
- More black staff
- More black investigators
- Funds for African and African American studies
- Memorial statue of Silas Hunt, the UofA’s first black student
Dawson said regardless of what happens, he wants to see real change.
“Reach out to the higher-minority populated areas, increase scholarship access for us,” Dawson said. “There’s a plethora of things.”